I’m married. What happens if I die without a will?

Generally, we humans are good planners. We do our best to arrange and structure our lives so we can afford a home, send our children to college, get to work on time each day, enjoy free time, engage in social activities, fulfill our family obligations, and look forward to a comfortable retirement. We journey through life striving to make the most of each day, to dPennsylvania Estate Planningo our best for our children and loved ones. Along the way we accumulate things. Most of us will have a home; a car or two; money in the bank; jewelry; firearms, perhaps; a house full of personal possessions we have acquired over the years, and various investments.

It’s entirely satisfying to know that when we pass from this world, the possessions we worked so hard to acquire will go to those persons or institutions we love or cherish. It is reassuring to know that by taking simple steps now, we can help secure our children’s futures for when we are gone. We can do this of course by creating an estate plan. This estate plan may consist of just a Will or it may take the form of a Trust or it may include a Will and a Trust. A knowledgeable attorney can help devise a plan as simple or as complex as it needs to be to adequately carry out your testamentary wishes.

Unfortunately, many of us never devise that plan. We don’t make that Will or create that Trust. When a person dies without having made a Will or created any other kind of estate plan; we say he or she has died intestate. When a person dies intestate the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania decides what happens to the deceased persons possessions. The Commonwealth decides who gets the coin collection or the antique tractor. The rules, actually, are deceptively simple.

When a married person dies intestate, we look to Title 20 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated States, Section 2102, to determine what the surviving spouse sill inherit. It’s short and to the point so I’ve pasted it below. Before reading the statute, however, consider what should dictate how your worldly possessions are distributed once you are gone. Should it be your own, carefully prepared Last Will and Testament, one which protects and enriches your family’s future, or should it be the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If you believe you know best how to provide for your family’s future after you are gone then you must create a Last Will and Testament or employ another legally enforceable estate planning tool.

Feel free to contact my office by phoning 717.582.0400 or by using the contact form below this post. During the free, no obligation consultations I will help you to understand your options and recommend a way forward.


§ 2102.  Share of surviving spouse. 


   The intestate share of a decedent’s surviving spouse is:

   (1) If there is no surviving issue or parent of the decedent, the entire intestate estate.

   (2) If there is no surviving issue of the decedent but he is survived by a parent or parents, the first $ 30,000 plus one-half of the balance of the intestate estate. Notwithstanding the foregoing, in the case of a decedent who died as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a surviving spouse shall be entitled to 100% of any compensation award paid pursuant to the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act (Public Law 107-42, 115 Stat. 230).

   (3) If there are surviving issue of the decedent all of whom are issue of the surviving spouse also, the first $ 30,000 plus one-half of the balance of the intestate estate.

   (4) If there are surviving issue of the decedent one or more of whom are not issue of the surviving spouse, one-half of the intestate estate.

   (5) In case of partial intestacy any property received by the surviving spouse under the will shall satisfy pro tanto the $ 30,000 allowance under paragraphs (2) and (3).

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